Where Colibrí chef Elia Herrera gets to-go butter chicken, pork bone soup and veal sandwiches

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Takeout Diaries: Where Colibrí chef Elia Herrera gets to-go butter chicken, pork bone soup and veal sandwiches

It may be November but it feels like March all over again—our numbers are going up, it’s cold and grey outside and, once again, we can’t eat inside restaurants. But there’s always takeout or delivery. In this new series, we’re asking Toronto chefs to name their go-to takeout spots from throughout the pandemic.

When it comes to Mexican food, Elia Herrera goes beyond the typical hits, tapping into recipes and techniques passed down from her mother and grandmother, an incredibly accomplished caterer in Veracruz, Mexico. The third-generation chef and owner of Chef’s Assembly Hall’s Colibrí and plant-based LosCo is now consulting on a new restaurant set to open in Edmonton next year.

During these past eight months, Colibri has really doubled down on takeout and delivery. Their menu is available for delivery on all the major apps (Uber, DoorDash, Skip the Dishes) and for pickup using Ritual. They also have a ghost kitchen in the works that will service the city’s west end. But when Herrera wants something to eat without having to make it herself, she has a few favourite spots.

Little India

255 Queen St. W., 416-205-9836, littleindia.ca

This family-owned restaurant has been serving Toronto since 1995 and offers a menu with a staggering 130 item, including many vegetarian dishes. “The quality is great and the portions are generous,” Herrera says of the Queen West fixture. During the pandemic, Little India has been giving free meals to those who lost their jobs or who simply can’t afford a meal.

Go-to item 1: Butter chicken
Dish description: The popular dish features chunks of boneless chicken in a creamy tomato sauce. “The flavour is always consistent.”

Go-to item 2: Chicken biryani
Dish description: “It’s big enough for next-day leftovers. I love the heat also; it’s spicy without being crazy hot. I top it with raita to balance the heat, though.”

Go-to item 3: Naan
Dish description: This traditional Indian white flour bread is prepared in the restaurant’s own tandoori oven. “It’s amazing!” says Herrera.

The Owl of Minerva

280 Spadina Ave., Dragon City Unit A, 2F, 416-599-7275, owlfamily.ca

Chinatown’s late-night staple for casual Korean comfort food now has multiple locations across the GTA.

Go-to item 1: Kam ja tang
Dish description: A hearty pork bone and potato soup that comes with rice. “I love it,” says Herrera. “It kind of reminds of puchero, a type of soup eaten in Mexico. It warms me up.”

Go-to item 2: Spicy ddukbokki
Dish description: “I love the sweet and spicy flavour of the sauce but, even more than that, I love the chewy texture of the rice cakes.” Owl of Minerva prepares their spicy and saucy rice cakes with seafood cakes and vegetables.

Go-to item 3: Japchae
Dish description: Stir-fried vegetables and glass noodles with sweet soy sauce.

California Sandwiches

244 Claremont St., 416-603-3317, eatcalifornia.ca

This long-standing, family-owned lunch counter is a city favourite for old-school Italian sandwiches. “All of the sandwiches taste homemade and they’re made with fresh ingredients, like house-pickled jalapeños. The portions are big, too. I’m on my way to order a sandwich right now—my mouth is watering just thinking about it.”

Go-to item 1: Veal sandwich
Dish description: Two cutlets of Ontario veal are battered, fried then bathed in marinara sauce and stuffed into a kaiser bun. For a bit extra, all sandwiches can be topped with your choice of sautéed onions, sweet peppers, rapini, mushrooms and provolone cheese. But the jalapeños are free.

Go-to item 2: Chicken sandwich
Dish description: This is essentially the same as the veal sandwich, but with chicken cutlets. Herrera top hers with nothing but jalapeño peppers.